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Offley Stopsley 214-6 Vs Ickleford 170-9 ; 11th May

OSCC Won by 44 runs

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Same teams, different story.

Less than twenty-four hours after concluding their draw at Ickleford, Offley and Ickleford renewed acquaintance in the North Herts League and the home side came out on top in emphatic fashion against a side containing Hitchin Town’s premier batsman and a Finland international.

If Saturday was an illustration of the backs-to-the-wall defiance of Rorke’s Drift, Sunday was a veritable Ulundi of a performance with Offley’s batsmen mowing down Ickleford’s bowlers with a ferocious onslaught, hammering the ball to the boundary with the precision of British Gatling Guns flaying the life from Cetewayo’s Zulu impis.

By the time Offley’s batsmen had been to work on said Finland international, a man who had not been shy to offer an opinion during the previous day’s draw, he’d have been hard-pressed to get in Iceland’s team – or Farm Foods’ midweek eleven.

Stand-in captain Richie Barker won the toss and had no hesitation about batting first, returning the favour after Offley were obliged to toil in the field the day before. Barker and Steve Hoar opened the innings and laid the foundation for a big total with a stand of 81 in 16 overs. Hoar showed his pedigree and disdainfully flicked Lockyer for a huge six over square leg before lofting a casual drive to long off for 25. Williams and Lockyer both bowled well to check the scoring rate but Qumar and Barker took the score to 116 before they perished in swift succession. Qumar miscued a slower ball to mid off before Barker danced down the wicket to hole out at deep midwicket after reaching 50 for the fourth time this season.

However, Nathan Brodie hit the ground running and proved that a nine-stone waif can sometimes generate decent power as he struck his first six of the season. Brodie dominated useful stands with Scott Addy and Darren Lunney and looked set for 50 before slicing a catch to cover after making 37.

Jon Cerasale bravely shrugged off the pain of his bad back (although the actual shrug only increased the discomfort) and sustained the onslaught with some ferocious blows as he and Lunney mixed smears and slogs with suicidal running as the Ickleford fielders melted in the heat. Cerasale fell in the last over for 23 and Lunney finished unbeaten on 18 as Offley set Ickleford 215 for victory.

Finland’s leading bowler conceded seven runs an over, a slightly disappointing performance from an international cricketer on a wicket that didn’t encourage extravagant stroke-play and offered considerable assistance to those bowlers adept enough to put the ball in the right place.

Ickleford got off the worst possible start in their quest for 215 as Qumar skittled the dangerous Millwood with his fourth ball to dismiss the Hitchin star. Jenner and Giggle restored Ickleford’s hopes with a fine partnership before Carl Clare produced a superb delivery to bowl Jenner, bringing the ball back up the slope to bowl the batsman through the gate and set Offley on the road to victory.

After enduring some wretched luck over the course of the weekend Colin Keeley finally enjoyed some good fortune as he picked up three wickets including the scalp of Giggle moments after the batsman reached his half-century. It was a just reward for Keeley after his travails of the weekend when he repeatedly found the edge of the bat with little reward and had a number of catches dropped or fall just out of the reach of fielders.

Ickleford’s hopes were effectively sunk when Dermont, a century maker against Offley last year, was run out by a combination of Lunney and a suicidal call from his partner for just a single. Clare picked up a second wicket to cap a fine spell of fast bowling and Brodie claimed the biggest scalp of his career by bowling Finland’s finest. Nanook of the North trudged off complaining about the pitch. Lockyer inflicted some lusty blows at the end of the innings as Ickleford’s last-wicket pair saw out the final overs to deny Offley a bonus point although Brodie and Barker both muffed return catches that would have earned the extra point. That effort means that two of the club’s supposedly more reliable fielders have now combined for four catches and eight drops between them this season.

However, it was not enough to prevent Offley from claiming the victory and making it two wins in a row at the start of the North Herts campaign, a fitting reward for two excellent all-round team efforts in the opening fixtures.